SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The cause of a tragic house fire that broke out on Florence Place the evening of May 26 is still under investigation. Fire personnel spent much of the day Friday sifting through debris of the gutted home searching for clues as to what sparked the blaze that killed homeowner and longtime resident Robert Vedutis.

When fire units arrived to the 100 block of Florence Place Thursday evening the two-story home was fully engulfed in flames. “The crew made a heroic push to get inside the front door to reach the victim on the first floor but the fast moving fire pushed them back,” said South Plainfield Fire Chief Tom Scalera, noting that Robert Vedutis was found on the first floor of the dwelling, in the hall between his bedroom and the kitchen.

At the time of the blaze, the victim's daughter Donna Vedutis was in the basement and witnesses at the scene claim she was screaming for help. According to Scalera, firefighters Joe Abbruzzesse and Mike Pellegrino, with assistance from South Plainfield Police Officer Brian Zielinski and an off-duty Plainfield fireman, were able to break through a window and pull Donna out of the home.

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“The daughter in the basement got to a front window, pushed her bed to the window, got on the bed and the guys pulled her through,” said Scalera.

Thirty firefighters responded to the scene, including volunteers from the South Plainfield, Plainfield, and New Market departments along with members of the South Plainfield Office of Emergency Management while the Colonia, Metuchen and North Stelton departments stood standby at borough headquarters. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries. Donna was transported to Robert Wood University Hospital and released on May 27.

The entire Florence Place home, particularly in the back, was completely devastated. Neighboring homes had their vinyl siding melted from the heat of the blaze. 

TAPinto South Plainfield will provide more details as they are made available.

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